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Penn State football: Best wins over 2023 opponents – Ohio State

Penn State football has played many memorable games against Ohio State, but one magical night will be forever etched in Nittany Lion history.



Penn State football,Cameron Miller, 2025 recruiting class,
Oct 22, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Grant Haley (15) reacts against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Ohio State 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football may be unrivaled, but the team that fits the rival moniker the closest for the Nittany Lions is Ohio State. Ohio State will always find Michigan to be its chief rival. But the Penn State-Ohio State series has been entertaining and competitive, particularly in recent years. The Buckeyes and Lions have met 38 times. Ohio State is the only Big Ten team Penn State has faced annually since joining the conference in 1993. However, that will change in 2025 with the new conference schedules.

Despite Ohio State holding a 24-14 lead in the series, many options exist to find Penn State’s best win against the Buckeyes. Personally, the 1994 thrashing of the Buckeyes and Joe Paterno’s record-breaking 324th win in 2001 holds special places in my heart because I attended those games.

One could also name the 2005 upset of the Buckeyes as the best win. The 2008 victory, Penn State’s first in Columbus in 30 years, was also significant. However, the Nittany Lions’ most recent victory over Ohio State is the most fitting for the title of best win.

A huge home underdog gets a boost before halftime

Penn State football entered its annual White Out game against Ohio State with a 4-2 record. After a narrow loss at Pitt and getting hammered in Ann Arbor, the Nittany Lions had won two games in a row. An overtime classic against Minnesota and a drubbing of Maryland gave Penn State momentum coming into the contest. The Lions were amped up for the home matchup but were a near 20-point underdog.

The second-ranked Buckeyes were 6-0, coming off a hard-fought overtime victory at Wisconsin the previous week. With ESPN’s College Gameday on hand for the festivities, the stage was set for an awesome atmosphere.

The game was low scoring in the first half. On its first drive, Penn State drove into Ohio State territory but came up empty on a missed field goal. The teams traded punts until late in the first quarter when John Reid coughed up the ball during a punt return. This set up Ohio State to get the game’s first points with a field goal.

The Buckeyes would later get a touchdown but miss the extra point and add another field goal. With only about a minute left in the first half and down 12-0, the Lions needed a boost. They got it with a quick strike drive ending in a Chris Godwin touchdown.

Super reliable inside of 40. This is from 45…

The third quarter was not friendly for Penn State. The Buckeyes scored a touchdown to make it 19-7. They followed up with a safety after a snap sailed over the head of punter Blake Gillikin. The Lions had negative total yards in the quarter.

Down 21-7 early in the fourth quarter and starting a drive from their own 10-yard line, the situation looked bleak for the Nittany Lions. But a quick strike drive that took only five plays cut the score to 21-14. Penn State’s defense forced a three-and-out on the next Ohio State possession. The special teams blocked the ensuing punt, setting up the offense for an eventual field goal.

The Buckeyes got the ball back with about nine minutes to go. Ohio State drove the ball to the Penn State 28-yard line, burning about 5 minutes off the clock. Then one of the most famous plays in Penn State football history occurred.

Penn State football was back on the map

With Grant Haley’s incredible touchdown, Penn State had the three-point lead. With about four and half minutes to go, it was up to Penn State’s defense to hold on for the victory. The defense held, ending the game with back-to-back sacks of quarterback J.T. Barrett. Penn State finally had its signature win under head coach James Franklin. After all the program had been through since 2011, it was cathartic for everyone involved. The fans rushed to the field, and it became a sea of white as the team and fans celebrated.

Penn State football would not be tripped up again the rest of the regular season, going 11-2 and winning its first Big Ten championship since the 2008 season. The Nittany Lions were back to national prominence, and this matchup is now regarded as one of the best wins in program history.

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Shane has been a Penn State fan since he attended his first game in Beaver Stadium when he was 8 years old. A Class of 2005 alum, he has been a contributing writer for Victory Bell Rings, Saturday Blitz and now Basic Blues Nation. He also hosts The Nittany and Badger: A Big Ten Football Podcast. Shane lives near Pittsburgh with his wife and son.


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